City man, 60, charged in shooting of 3 youths

Confrontation at his home led to shots, police say

Wounds not life-threatening

July 29, 2002|By Johnathon E. Briggs and Rona Kobell | Johnathon E. Briggs and Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

A 60-year-old Southeast Baltimore man was arrested yesterday afternoon in the shooting of three youths, ages 11 to 18, after a confrontation in which he ordered them off his front steps, city police said.

William "Billy" Banks was arrested without incident at his home in the 100 block of N. Decker Ave. shortly after the shooting. He was being held last night at the Central Booking and Intake Center on charges that included three counts of attempted murder and was awaiting an appearance before a court commissioner.

Wounded were neighborhood residents Dominique Byrd, 11, of the 100 block of N. Ellwood Ave., and Berry Bolling, 18, of the 100 block of N. Potomac St., along with William James, 15, of the 1100 block of Poplar Grove St. in West Baltimore.

Bolling, who was shot in the chest, and James were listed in good condition last night at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Byrd was released after treatment in the pediatric trauma unit at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

Byrd's mother, Hazel Ferguson, said she learned that her son had been shot while she was at work as a hotel housekeeper. Last night, as he was resting at home, she said she was certain that he "was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"He didn't realize he was shot until he got in the house and saw himself bleeding," she said.

The triple shooting in the Ellwood Park/Monument neighborhood appeared to be the latest example of an older adult firing at what were perceived as troublesome young people in Baltimore.

Earlier this month, Edward Day, 54, was charged with first-degree murder and a weapons violation in the fatal shooting of David Stewart, 15, as the youth tried to steal a 10-speed bicycle from the man's yard in West Baltimore.

Shortly before 1 p.m., Banks returned home to find the three youths sitting on his marble steps and asked them to leave, said Sheri Albrecht, a city police spokeswoman. When the youths became "irate and disrespectful," she said, Banks went into the house, returned with a pistol and shot at least three times, striking each of them.

"Call the police! I've been shot!" one youth screamed as he ran south on Decker Avenue, said neighbor Darrell Summers, 40. He said the youth had been harassing Banks and had slashed the tires on the passenger side of his Ford Windstar van before the shooting.

Neighbors described Banks as a kind and quiet man who kept to himself and worked in a local store as a check-cashing clerk.

He had had an argument with the three youths Friday, said Summers' wife, Monica Hill, 40.

"That man minds his own business," Hill said. "He would wave to us and then go into his house. Whatever it was, he was provoked." She said there had been a problem with teens selling drugs on Decker Avenue for about two months.

"They hang there on that corner," said Hill, referring to the corner of Fairmount and Decker avenues. "They even tried to sell drugs around here," she said, indicating the area around the stoop of her house on Decker Avenue. "I'm not having it."

District Court records show that Bolling received 18 months' probation after being convicted last month on charges of drug possession and resisting arrest. As a condition of his probation, he was ordered to attend school regularly, complete 100 hours of community service and avoid drugs, records show.

The shooting surprised those who work with Banks. For 16 years, he has been employed at Donald's Place, a liquor store and check-cashing business in the 400 block of N. Montford Ave. Co-workers described him yesterday as an intelligent and courteous man who was kind to customers.

"He was very kind, always looking out for others," said co-worker Lola Johnson. "He spoke to everyone and gave them a little goofy smile."

Bonita Church said she was not surprised to learn that her neighbor Bolling had been shot. "It wasn't a question of if it was going to happen," she said. "It was a question of when. It was inevitable."

Church, who owns an executive party-planning business in the 100 block of N. Potomac St., said she had noticed over the three years that she has lived in the Southeast Baltimore neighborhood that Bolling was "getting caught up in the crime scene." In a neighborhood rife with drug dealing and gunfire, she worried, the youth might think he had no alternatives.

So six months ago, Church said, she pulled Bolling aside to tell him that he had a choice.

"I talked to him, told him where his life was leading him. I said, `You're a young black man who can have a future if he decides to have one.' He didn't want to listen," she said.

Church said she occasionally returns home to find teen-agers sitting on her steps. Though they move when she asks, she said, the teens have sometimes mouthed off to her neighbors. Some residents, she said, are so afraid of the teens that they don't say anything.

Police, even as they're working overtime to stem violence on city streets, can't seem to control the problem either, she said.

"I don't excuse the man for what he did," she said of yesterday's shooting. "But can I understand his frustration? Yes. When you work all day, you want to go home and have some peace in your castle. And when you have kids making noise on your stoop, you can't have peace."

Wanda Woodard, 47, who lives next door to Byrd, learned of the shooting when she came back from church. She said she was surprised.

"As far as I knew about him, he was a good kid," she said of the 11-year-old who often greeted her as "Miss Wanda." She said he has two sisters and an older brother.

Woodard said that she has seen the neighborhood decline over the 10 years she's been there and that gunfire and drug trafficking are common.

"The children do hang on the block," she said, referring to teens, adding that come from outside the neighborhood to sell drugs.

"I have never seen him with one of those boys," she added.

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